Category Archives: Winter Driving

Brrrr yup another winter weather post

Hey I haven’t posted a winter weather post for a few months now! LOL I’m due for one.

This morning our thermometer’s are reading -11F which is a record in these parts (official temp this morning -10F, old record was -8F from 1934). In these brutal days I pretty much use all of the battery for my 30 mile commute, arriving home with the <10 mile remaining warning indicator showing. I find my non-symmetric power consumption interesting: In the morning I precondition the car and attempt to use as little electricity is possible on my way in. For the drive home, however, I crank the heat and take the freeway maximizing power consumption. The net result is that I use about 25-30% of the battery in the morning and almost 60% of the battery in the evening.

Another thing that is noticeable about the car in such cold weather: The noise. On a balmy 70F degree day the car is virtually silent with only a slight whrrr noise from the front. In temps this cold things shrink and start rubbing differently, the plastic squeaks, the window creaks, the driver moans, etc. Makes you feel like something is going to break during the commute.

Thankfully this cold spell is happening in the 2nd half of February which means it can’t last too long…right? (Last year the cold spell started in January and thus the light at the end of the tunnel was a lot further off).

 

The beginning of EV Winter

Today marked the beginning of EV winter, or FFE winter if you will. Yeah another cold weather post–I know move south already LOL.

The momentous occasion to mark this event is that today was the first day, for me, when the car complained that its cold outside and should be plugged in. This morning our outside temps are about 24F–about two weeks ahead of “normal” for us.

Even though I’ve been through this once already I’m still experimenting. This week I bumped the precondition temps back up to 85F so the car would be nice and toasty again. The experimentation this time: Many people on the forums have mentioned that to prevent the windows from fogging up simply crack a window. Hmm if this works effectively and I still stay warm it could be the best way to drive in with the lowest power consumption in the dead of winter. This morning I had the drivers window cracked about 1/2″ and HVAC off for my 15 mile commute in. The window never fogged up and the temperature remained quite reasonable. I’ll have to try 1/4″ next week….

 

 

Here we go again…

Here it is late-October and the chill of fall is on us. Thus begins another six months or so of winter driving posts. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum (especially if this winter is much milder than last year..sheesh!).

Here in southeastern Michigan we’re getting frost almost every morning with milder afternoons–pretty typical for this time of year. This means that the morning drive is starting to become the power drive: Even after a precondition you still have to use some heat to stay comfortable. Long gone are the days of summer when I would wake up to the guess-o-meter saying the car had 100 miles of range.

Now that I’ve had the car for over a year I pretty much know what to expect from it in just about any condition (kind of also why I’ve been posting less here because there have been fewer “exceptions” to talk about). I feel a bit more comfortable with the guess-o-meter and the blue-cup on the dash and thus feel like I have a bit more freedom to do things like use the heat on the way in fully knowing that I’ll still be able to make it home without having to charge somewhere.

Just like owning any other car: once you’ve had it for a while you know what to expect out of it. With the FFE (or any EV), though, even if I barely make it home I can let it charge up over dinner and have it ready for most errands the night may bring.

 

Just another weather post….

Just as we appear to be on the cusp of spring…bam! we get another blast of winter weather (this blast of winter gave us just enough snow to make this year the snowiest winter on record).

How would this affect an EV? (If you’ve been reading my blog all along you’ll probably guess! LOL) Yesterday our temperatures were in the 70s F, this morning the low was about 27F. Consequently my power consumption average for yesterday was 211 wH/mile and I was greeted with a 90+ range to empty on the guess-O-meter this morning. Today’s power consumption–at least for the commute in–was as high as 270 wH/mile for the exact same route as yesterday (which translates to a guess-O-meter reading of about 70 miles).

Now that I have almost 12 months of driving the car under my belt I had expected this drop. Its becoming easier and easier to predict what tomorrow’s range will be simply based on the predicted high and low temperatures.

 

Whats that thing up in the sky?

Whats this? A post about weather again…but wait there is this thing up in the sky, its really bright? In addition I’m standing on something…green? More importantly the guess-o-meter is telling me I have 80+ miles again! Could this be….Spring?

We are now in the midst of the big thaw…all that snow (84″ of snow in Southeastern Michigan as of today) will take some time to melt. It may be August before the last of the piles are gone.

Bring on the warmer weather…!

 

Now here is something you can’t do with an ICE

Haven’t had a winter weather post in over a week! So here is one on this chilly last day of February:

Now that the truck is gone my FFE has been spending its nights inside the garage. Thus when I get in the car in the morning there is no snow to brush off and the temperature around the car is 20-30 degrees warmer than the outside air (since the car is preconditioned it is really warmer inside the car LOL).

This morning, though, with the outside temps <0F again, I did something I could never do with an ICE vehicle: “Started” the car with the garage door closed. That’s right: I got in the car, buckled up, started the car and got everything situated before I opened the garage door. With an ICE vehicle this is very risky: It is never a good idea to start an ICE car inside a closed environment (underground parking garages and tunnels have ventilation systems to exhaust the CO2 and bring in fresh air). In an EV, though, you can sit in the garage with the car “running” to your hearts content: No nasty gases will be generated at all (at least from the car), especially since you’re not moving thus the only electricity consumed is the 12V system powering the dash, radio, etc. All this to give the car that extra minute or two of warm up time and delay the time that I’m exposed to the outside air.

Winter can be done any time now..especially since tomorrow is March….

 

Another useful tip for winter driving when preconditioning

Here is another useful winter driving tip when using preconditioning:
After your last drive the night before pull your windshield wipers out about 4-6″. I’m not saying bend them up I’m just saying lift them up so that they look like they are at about a “1/4 wipe” position (you should be able to carefully pull them up–they will offer just a little bit of resistance but they will pull up: This is a feature on all the new Focuses so that you can change the wiper blades).
I try to leave the wipers just above the defrost vents on the inside.
What this does: When the car preconditions (especially when set to 85F) it blasts the heated air out the defrost vents just below the wipers. Thus not only is the window getting cleared but the wiper blades are also slightly warmed up.

The ICE Focus has a nice and toasty warm engine: Forward motion causes warm air to ride up over the windshield melting any snow and/or ice that forms on the wiper blades. The FFE doesn’t have this so I’m constantly digging snow/ice out of the “pocket” where the wiper blades are stored when off. The trick above helps the blades, if only briefly, to warm up above freezing.

 

Will this winter ever end?

What? Another winter driving post? Well, here in the Midwest, when its cold and snowy outside we don’t get out that much. The amount of daylight is shorter which means as you eat your dinner it goes to pitch black outside further reducing the desire to venture out in the cold. For the winter EV driver these conditions fit right in with the range reduction: Since you don’t have the desire to go out that much after work you don’t and the car won’t take you as far anyway.

This past weekend we took two trips that kind of illustrate this: On Friday after work we drove a short distance away for dinner.. 10 miles one way. What? so 20 miles is considered a bit of a distance? Sure: In the winter on a Friday after I’ve already driven the car for my 30 miles round trip commute. This is 50 miles of total driving for Friday. 50 miles is about what I had expected winter range to be when doing my research before getting the car. The car did show 5+ miles remaining on the battery as we arrived home.

Our second trip was on Saturday: To a trade show about 20 miles away–via highway. This one was interesting: On the way to the show it was cold (~10F) and overcast. The drive to the show via the freeway consumed 45% of the battery (65 mph or slower slogging through some freshly fallen snow–of course). The return leg, however, was after the sun came out for a few hours and via backroads that top out at 45mph speed limit. Due to the sun shining we didn’t even need any heat..we barely used 25% on the return (the ambient temp was still in the teens).

On a summer’s day I wouldn’t give either trip a second thought–we’d have plenty left in the battery after each. As such 40 or 50 miles is about the most I would attempt to go during the winter..

At least we’re into February and then March and….Spring! Hey pitchers and catchers are starting to report to spring training…there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and then my posts will switch to Spring/Summer driving! LOL).

 

About that climate hit….

So what do you think this post will be about?? Winter weather driving?? LOL Well sort of.

Ever notice that as soon as you turn on the heater the guess-o-meter’s value suddenly drops by 10 – 20 miles and your status goes <0? (If your status read 0 beforehand the value of the status will be the amount that your range dropped.) Have you wondered where the guess-o-meter gets the value that it will use to drop the range with? Keep reading…

During the week I use the FFE as my commuter car for my 30 mile round trip into work and back. On the weekends we typically use it for short trips to the store, or to my son’s activities, etc.–just driving short distances around town. This means that during the week I have to make sure the FFE can go the 30 miles so I can get home, but on the weekends it really doesn’t matter because it typically only drives 10 or 15 miles a day–if that. In warmer weather the 30 miles is no problem (usually only using about 20% of the battery for those 30 miles). This winter with the really cold temps, though, I’ve had to use all the tricks to (most of them spelled out in a blog entry or two here) ensure I have the 30 miles. Where are you going with this you’re thinking to yourself?

Here is the thing: During the week I’ll attempt to use as little power from the HVAC as possible (defrost on LO and fan on low) but on the weekend since it doesn’t matter we’ll use max defrost, set the temp high, etc. What I’ve found out is that the guess-o-meter also guesses at the power consumption for the HVAC! On Monday morning when I get in the car and hit the HVAC button to turn it on my range will drop by 20 miles (because over the weekend we’ve used max power on the HVAC) but on Saturday morning when I hit the HVAC button to turn it on my range will ¬†only drop by 1 or 2 miles–if that (because during the week the HVAC has used very little power). Thus the guess-o-meter is also making an educated guess about how much power the HVAC will use based on your prior usage of it.

That’s actually pretty cool: instead of just using some fixed guess that may be too high at one point or too low it is actually using measured historical usage.

 

Bad battery and clear roads…

Another “winter” post with a twist: With the bad weather again returning–mostly subzero temperatures–I put the FFE in the garage and drove the truck for a day. Leaving the truck outside to keep the FFE “toasty warm” in the garage (at freezing!) I retired for the night. In the morning, with the EV all warmed, loaded up and ready to go I hopped into the truck to move it…click..!? Try again…click…nothing. Fortunately I do have a set of jumper cables (hey it is a pickup–no pickup should be caught anywhere without jumper cables–but I digress) a quick jump from our other ICE Focus and it was up and running. Guess I’ll be getting a new battery for the truck; LOL.

With the FFE all warmed up and ready to go the commute in was relatively easy and only consumed 4.1 kWh or 26% of the battery. Just a few days ago the commute was consuming 31% of the battery at the same outside temperature (~13F). The only difference is that today the roads were completely clear and dry and the prior days the roads had a good 3″ of slush and snow on them. Thus slogging through the snowy roads causes the car to consume about an extra 800 Wh or so vs driving on clear roads.

I didn’t even consider that driving on a snow covered road would consume almost a full 1kWh of power over my commute…interesting.